The Grangers have had to deal with a short week of practice in preparation for today’s game against Harris County, with the two teams set to face off at 7 p.m. at Callaway Stadium.
The Grangers will look for their first win after the 24-21 loss to the Cougars.
LaGrange stood toe-to-toe with a strong Newnan team, and it was a much more competitive game than a year ago when the Cougars won 27-6.
“I thought we showed we were a whole lot better of a football team than a year ago,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “So we’re (heading) in the right direction. It’s the little things we’ve got to do and we didn’t get them done in the end.”
The little things typically add up to big things when comparing wins and losses.
Branch pointed to the two possessions the Grangers had deep in Newnan territory in the fourth quarter that resulted in zero points.
Those two possessions were key points in the game, and the Grangers also didn’t have an answer for Newnan’s Tray Matthews, a dynamic receiver who had three touchdown catches, including the game-winner in the third quarter.
“We reminded them that playing hard (with a) great effort and being physical, all those things are givens,” Branch said. “You have to do those. But the teams that win big down the road do that plus execute the details and play smart.”
Branch said some areas LaGrange worked on this week during practice were offensive-line alignments, communication between wide receivers, and defensive containment.
On offense, LaGrange typically goes with a no-huddle offense, meaning the players have to be on the same page quickly.
“We signal plays and use verbal communication. We don’t huddle,” Branch said. “So if the right tackle thinks it’s one play and the left tackle thinks it’s another play, you’ve got a problem.”
Branch also said the defense has to avoid giving up big plays, although a lot of teams will likely have a hard time containing the explosive Matthews this season.
“(The defense) did a lot of good things last week, but there were some breakdowns there that cost us big plays,” Branch said. “Those are perimeter guys and it’s you and him and the ball is in his hands and you got to get him down in space. So we need those guys to play really well.”
The Grangers did settle down defensively and didn’t give up another point after Matthews scored his final touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Offensively, LaGrange showed flashes of brilliance, although the Grangers were held scoreless in the second half.
In the first half, Zach Giddens threw a touchdown pass to Dee Smith, and Smith also had a long scoring run.
Mon Denson, who had two touchdown runs in a preseason game against Valley, added a 51-yard scoring run.
LaGrange was up 21-17 at the half, but the Cougars took the lead in the third quarter, and the Grangers were unable to answer, although they had plenty of opportunities.
“We played well defensively in the second half except but for one play, and at times, it only takes one,” Branch said. “We’ve got a chance to be a good football team if we can skate through these first three tough games and learn how to win. You line up and play (Newnan), the people we play down the road, it’s preparation.”
Harris County, which went 5-5 last season, opened its season with a 35-23 loss to Houston County.
After the Harris game, LaGrange hosts Thomson the following week before beginning Region 5-AAAA play Sept. 28 against Shaw.